Sugar Hill Records (rap)
|Founder||Joe Robinson and Sylvia Robinson, Milton Malden|
|Genre||Electro, boogie, hip-hop|
|Country of origin||United States|
Sugar Hill Records was the name of a rap music record label that was founded in 1979 by husband and wife Joe and Sylvia Robinson with Milton Malden and financial funding of Morris Levy, the owner of Roulette Records.
Joe Robinson had parlayed a music publishing company that he established years before in New York into the All Platinum, Stang, and Turbo record labels prior to establishing the Sugar Hill label. Artists included his wife Sylvia, of Mickey and Sylvia (Love is Strange) fame, The Moments (Love on a Two Way Street), Brother to Brother, Shirley and Company ("Shame Shame Shame"), Linda Jones, Jack McDuff and Chuck Jackson.
The Sugar Hill label's first record was "Rapper's Delight" (1979) by The Sugarhill Gang, which was also the first Top 40 hip hop single. Afterwards The Sequence, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Funky Four Plus One, Crash Crew, Treacherous Three, and the West Street Mob, joined the label. Sugar Hill's in-house producer and arranger was Clifton "Jiggs" Chase. The in-house recording engineer was Steve Jerome. Al Goodman, leader of The Moments, ran the show and George Kerr was a major producer. Joe and Sylvia's sons Joey and Leland were also active in the business.
In the early 1980s, the Robinsons bought Levy out. They enjoyed several years of success. They also pioneered the music video, with Sylvia producing several and a young Spike Lee making his first video production depicting the White Lines record (performed by Melle Mel and The Furious Five). Joe Robinson was innovative in the business end. He was the first to introduce a cassette single. He also worked with TVS Television Network executive Tom Ficara to produce the Fresh Groove TV series to feature these music videos when MTV would not run them. The success of Fresh Groove forced MTV to establish Yo! MTV Raps, and rap music videos were now on a mainstream cable network.
A controversial distribution deal with MCA Records ended up in protracted litigation, and, finally, the label closed down in 1986.